And I’m disappointed.
“You’re getting dressed?”
I’ve startled her. She covers herself with her arms, hiding from me. I don’t like her hiding.
But that’s not a fair thing to want. Not when I’m hiding. From everyone. From her.
Still, I can’t let her go.
I throw the shirt and tie onto the laundry basket and strike a stern pose. “Are you in a hurry to leave?” My gaze travels the length of her body—her well-toned legs, her trimmed pussy. My cock twitches with arousal.
She shivers and I wonder if she’s cold or if she can sense my want.
Then she looks away and I realize she has no idea how she affects me. It’s insane that a woman so intelligent can’t see the obvious.
“Guys don’t usually want me to hang around after sex,” she says.
I’m ripped apart by her words. “That statement brings up so many issues for discussion that I don’t know where to begin.”
She’s perfect and men have turned her away? I step toward her on impulse. “What is wrong with men to not…?” I can’t finish the statement. Because I should be turning her away. Because sentences like that are too close to sharing emotions. Because thinking of her with other men makes my gut twist.
Yet, I have to say something. “Alayna, please don’t group me with other guys you know. I’d like to think I’m not like most of them. And I don’t want to know or think about you having sex with other men. I don’t share.”
She doesn’t meet my eyes, but I can tell she likes what I’ve said.
“That sounds awfully relationship-y to me. I thought you didn’t do relationships,” she says as she tugs on her shorts.
It’s not a challenge—she’s feeling out the boundaries of what’s going on with us. I admire her for that. “I don’t do romantic relationships. Sexual relationships are another thing entirely. Why are you getting ready to leave?”
She reaches for her shirt, but I beat her to it. “Stop,” I say, holding her shirt out of her reach. I put my finger under her chin, tilting her to meet my eyes. It’s an intimate gesture—almost too intimate. Lost in her eyes, I say the words I shouldn’t but that can’t bear to be held inside. “I want you to stay.” I add my addendum so that my plea doesn’t get misconstrued—by her or by me. “And, if you are so inclined, I’d prefer that you not be dressed.”
She’s stubborn. Or cautious. “You’re dressed.” She crosses her arms over her chest again and thrusts out her lip in such a way that it takes all my energy not to lean forward and nibble on it.
“As soon as the food’s here, I’ll be happy to lose the clothing. Would that make you feel better?” It would help me to be naked with her. This strange energy between us is wearing on me. The physical is what I have to give her. I need to bring that back to the forefront of our relationship.
“Yes,” she answers, and I’m relieved.
But then she changes her mind. “I don’t know.”
I brush my hand against her cheek. Other women are so easy to read, so easy to manipulate because I understand what they’re thinking. But Alayna—she’s different. And all I know is that I have to have more of her. “What’s going on inside your head, precious? Are you going to run off every time we have sex?”
She turns away from me. “I hadn’t really thought this would be more than a one-time thing, Hudson.”
Honestly, I’d thought that I could get her out of my system easier than this myself. But I can’t. I need her in a way that I can’t fully understand.
And something about the way we connected makes me think she feels the same. So why is she running?
I grab her arm and pull her to me. “Alayna.” I search her eyes. “If you don’t want to have sex with me again, you need to tell me.”
“I do! I do.”
She throws her arms around me and buries her face in my chest. I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do, but my arms have a mind of their own, my body needing to protect her and hold her and comfort her. I return her embrace.
“What is it?” I stroke her hair. “Tell me.” I want to know her thoughts, her reasons, her worries. Even though I can’t give her the same in return.
“I’m not good at relationships. Of any sort. I have…issues.”
“Like what?” I know more about her past than she realizes. Her issues are nothing compared to mine. I shouldn’t let her know that I’ve researched her. I should let it go, let her secrets stay inside her. I’m not going to share mine with her.
But there are other parts of me—parts that want her to share with me and darker parts that want to force her to open up. Those parts take over and I ask, “Does this have anything to do with that restraining order?”
She stills in my arms. “You know about that?”
A rush of satisfaction runs through me. I’m addicted to this power—this thrill of being able to make someone feel a certain way. She’s uncomfortable, humiliated.
She tears out of my arms and buries her head in the blankets.
And I hate myself.
This power isn’t the power I want. It’s not who I want to be with her. I want the light, carefree Alayna back—the one that yielded to me with pleasure, not discomfort.
I should let it go. But I have to fix it.
I lie on the bed next to her and force a laugh. I put my hand on her back and massage her shoulders. Her naked skin beneath my fingers feels incredible and warm. I can’t stop touching her.
I bring us both back to the thing that we have, the only thing we share—our physical connection. “I know intimate things about you, precious—the way you look and the sounds you make when you’re about to come—and you’re concerned about this?”
She groans and my dick throbs.
“It was a big deal. The biggest deal. Like my biggest secret. I thought my brother had buried it.” She rises on her elbow and turns to eye me. “And are you saying I should be embarrassed about how I look and sound when…you know?”
It’s the last part of her statement I want to react to, but I still have mending to do. “I needed to know anything that might come up about my pretend girlfriend. It wasn’t necessarily easy to find, but not incredibly hard. It’s been buried now.”
With that out of the way, I cup her cheek and lose myself in her brown eyes. “And never, never be ashamed of how you look or sound at any time, especially when you’re about to come.” I circle her nose with mine. “I’m honored to be acquainted with you in that way.” I’d like to be acquainted with her in that way right now, in fact.
“I’m mortified.” She falls back onto the bed. “About the restraining order, I mean. I don’t know how to react to the other.”
“Why?” Her past is nothing like mine, and in many ways, her restraining order is silly and frivolous in comparison to the lives I’ve ruined.
But I understand her regret and her compulsions. They intrigue me and I want her to see that I can relate even though I can’t tell her how. Instead, I run my hand across her face and through her hair. I shouldn’t be touching her like this—it’s too near showing affection—but I can’t help myself.
“Because it makes me feel all weird and tingly. And turned on.”
“Fantastic.” I should take her again, right now.
I don’t. “But I meant, why are you mortified?”
“Oh.” She flushes and my dick hardens. That color on her face is so beautiful—she looks the same way when I’m fucking her, when I’m driving inside her. The urge to ravage her deepens.
But I want to hear her other answer. It’s important.
“Because it’s evidence of my crazy,” she says. “You know when I said I love too much? The restraining order is part of that, and I like to pretend it never happened.”
Like to pretend it never happened. I can’t get to that point. The things I’ve done are still real in my mind—every moment, every day. They consume me and eat at me, and even though I have learned to regret them, I can’t move away fr
om them. What I’d give to pretend they never happened.
I suspect that, despite what she says, it’s the same for her—that she can never escape the things she keeps running from. I admire her for trying.
So, as if I have any power to make it true, I give her this wish. “Then it never did.” I kiss her nose, and for this one moment, I let words wash away past sins—both of ours. Mine and hers. “We’ve all done insane things in the past. I’d never hold it against you.”
In this time and space, I’m captured by her—connected in a way that goes beyond the physical. I know her at a depth that she can never understand.
And that’s when I return to reality. I can’t keep this connection. I have to let it go, have to push her away. Alayna Withers cannot belong to me. “Just another reason romantic love holds no interest for me. People get crazy with it.”
Why does my stomach twist from this reminder? This is all that can be between us. What else would there be? Even if I can feel something for her—which is far-fetched in itself—I am incapable of any emotion she deserves.
I force myself to relax and focus my attention on her. “But going back to the heart of this conversation—why does that have a bearing on a relationship between you and me?”
She sits up suddenly. “I freaked out, Hudson. About a guy. Several guys, actually, but it was the last one that ended not well.”
I sit up next to her. “And do you think you’re going to ‘freak out’ about me?” I’m afraid of her answer. I don’t want to freak her out. I don’t want to break her.
Yet I can’t deny that there is a part of me—a very sick and disgusting part of me—that wants exactly that. Not because I want her to fall apart or because I want Celia to win, but because I want Alayna’s attention. I want her focused on me.
Whatever she says, I realize, it will be a disappointment.
I hold my breath while she answers.
“I really can’t honestly tell you. I’ve stayed away from any relationship for a while so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Trying to have something now with you—it’s uncharted territory for me.” She looks up and meets my eyes. “I haven’t freaked out so far. With you. And I don’t want to not have sex with you again. I mean…” She turns away, blushing.
I see her struggle, and I wish to God that I could let her go. For her sake, not mine. If I could simply walk away, this would be so much easier for her. Even if I followed through with Celia’s game, I understand that it is this—the pursuit of her outside the game—that will do the most harm to Alayna.
But I can’t let her go. I’m too much of a selfish ass.
I wrap my arms around her and nibble on her ear. “You’re adorable when you’re flustered. I don’t want to not have sex with you again either. So we won’t do that. We’ll have tons of incredible sex instead.”
She surrenders into my embrace. “I’m not saying yes, yet. I have to take this one day at a time.”
If I had a conscience, I’d be more supportive of her declaration. “Alayna, you might have to take this one day at a time, but I already know there will be tons of fucking between the two of us.” I pull her closer. Holding her like this, talking to her so intimately, it’s made me hard. “In fact, I’m going to have to be inside you again before you leave for work.”
She glances down at my erection and then peers back up at me. “Like right now?”
The way she’s looking at me with big lust-filled eyes, it takes everything I have not to pull her beneath me and plow into her. But I only succumb to a kiss. Then the intercom buzzes and dinner has arrived.
In the few minutes that I’m away from her—getting our food and paying the deliverer—I gather my wits. When I return to the bedroom, I’m more together. She still drives me crazy with her long fantastic legs and her perfect pouty lips, but it’s manageable. We flirt and I feed her and we banter about. It’s nice, actually. Comfortable.
Then we swing around to the topic that has both of us on our toes—our relationship. Our wants are actually very much the same. She wants to be with me sexually without any attachment. I want to be with her sexually without any attachment. Yet, we both fear it’s not possible.
Pretending that I have any self-control when it comes to her, I tell her that sex in the future is her decision. I mean it at the moment, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist pushing her if it comes to that. I can’t resist her. I already know this. My intent, though, is what matters now, and she seems to appreciate it. We make headway, setting boundaries and terms. Just talking about it relaxes us both.
Until she brings up fidelity.
Alayna will not fuck others while she’s in a relationship with me. It’s not debatable. The mere idea of her touching another man makes my chest tighten, and I finally understand what it means to see red. And I’m back to feeling out of sorts and out of control. Because I’ve never felt this possessive about a woman I’m fucking. I’ve never demanded faithfulness. I’ve never offered it from myself. For the most part, I have been loyal to one lover at a time, but only because it was easier. Never because a sexual commitment actually meant something to me.
Alayna has agreed to fidelity, thank God, but she wants to know my intentions. Any other woman and I’d dodge the question. Or I’d find ways of making her forget she’d even asked. I don’t do that now.
Meeting Alayna’s eyes, I brace a palm on each of her legs. “I’m not a slut, Alayna. This loft has been used for sex, yes, but I have it so I can be close to my office, not for fucking.” I brush a strand of hair off her face, mostly to distract myself from the weight of what I can’t stop from saying. “I will be as faithful as I expect you to be.”
It feels right to give this to the girl in front of me. To say these words. They’re a promise that I know I’ll have no trouble keeping, but they scare the ever-living fuck out of me.
Apparently they scare the fuck out of her too, because suddenly she’s up and gathering her clothes. “I can’t think about this anymore right now.”
I stand as well, recognizing the emotion etched in her features. “Why are you panicking?” Though I haven’t had much experience with this type of scenario, this is certainly not the reaction I expected.
She turns on me, her eyes blazing with rage. “You know, it’s all very good and fine for you to say you want a committed sexual relationship. You’ll have no problem remaining unemotionally involved—that’s your default. It’s not my default. Don’t you see what you’re asking of me might be impossible for me to deliver?”
She’s on the verge of tears. I’ve seen tears—many, many times. I’ve gloried in them. They are often the sign of a victory on my part. I’ve also studied them. They’ve fascinated me and intrigued me.
Though not a single tear has escaped her eyes yet, I know that I do not want to see Alayna cry.
I reach for her, but she pulls away.
“The more we have sex, Hudson, the more I’m likely to latch on, and even if you were into that, you wouldn’t be into the level that I latch. So, trust me when I say this has bad idea written all over it. Let’s call this a wonderful—oh, my God, such a wonderful evening—and now we need to move on.”
My moment of compassion—if that’s what it was—disappears and I am left hardened. “If that’s what you need.”
“I do. And I need a shower. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. In there.” I point out the way. “I’ll bring you some towels.”
She disappears into the bathroom, and I head for the linen closet. As I pile two fluffy towels into my arms, I consider my mood. A few minutes ago, I was unbalanced and apprehensive. Now, I’m…numb. Like I am most of the time. Honestly, it should be an improvement. The strange way I’ve been acting around Alayna is unsettling.
Yet underneath the numbness, there’s something else. Something tugging at the corners of my guard trying to get out. Feeling of some sort. It’s pleasant, in a way. But also not at all.
Suddenly I want that more than anyth
ing. The something else. It’s a compulsion that impels me into the bathroom where I set the towels on the counter. I strip and then I’m sliding in the shower to join her. It’s not what she wants, she said she needed time, but here I am, unable to help myself.
She turns into me with no surprise on her face. Then her lips are on mine and any doubt I had about my actions disappears. I kiss her long enough to let her know I’m in charge. When I’ve left her breathless, I wash her. I explore her body in all the ways I haven’t yet. I speak to her like this. I have so much that I need to say to her, and this is the only way I can. The only way I know how—rubbing her, caressing her, learning her. I leave no part of her untouched.
When I brush my fingers past her clit, she moans and leans into me.
I suppose it was a bit manipulative—getting her to this point. I’ve aroused her and wound her up. For once, though, my actions were not purposeful. I’m here because I can’t not be.
“Hudson.” She says my name and it’s infused with as much confusion as I feel.
None of this has been planned or premeditated. I don’t know who I am in this moment. I rely on instinct, thrusting two fingers inside her pussy. “Is this what you want?”
“Yes!” She gasps. “I mean, no. I want you.”
There’s a part of me that wants to sit on the bench in the walk-in shower and figure out everything going on in my head. I ignore that part and focus on the other part of me—the new part that wants only to please and tease and adore the woman in my arms.
“You’ll have to wait,” I tell her. “I’m enjoying making you wait.”
I work her, squeezing her clit and fucking her with my fingers until she’s moaning and writhing and digging her nails into my shoulders. Just as she’s about to come, I pull away. “I need to be washed too.”
I’m playing with her now, but it’s in fun. When was the last time I played like this? Without any malice? Without any need to examine? I’m not sure that I ever have.
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